NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - The State Attorney has charged Port Richey City Manager Tom O’Neill with misdemeanor driving under the influence.
As the I-Team has reported, O’Neill was found in a red SUV parked in the middle of a residential road on July 13, 2013. The SUV was idling in neutral
Court documents obtained by ABC Action News show O’Neill had a .367 blood alcohol content level, four times the legal limit. That level was obtained from a blood draw after O’Neill was taken to a nearby hospital hours later.
When the New Port Richey police officer arrived on the scene, he recognized the man behind the wheel as O'Neill, and that he appeared to be sleeping. Reports say the vehicle was running and in neutral.
According to the police report, O'Neill showed "signs of impairment." It states he had watery, bloodshot eyes, dazed expression and slurred speech. The responding officer also noted "the smell of alcohol."
The ABC Action News I-Team obtained the police mounted dash cam video from that night. It shows officers asking O'Neill if he knows where he is and the reports note the odor of alcohol. O'Neill stared straight ahead when the officer tried doing a field sobriety test.
But instead of investigating O'Neill for a DUI, paramedics who responded told the officer they were going to transport him to nearby Palm Bay Hospital for a medical evaluation, and that he could have had a stroke or some other medical problem. The New Port Richey Police Department closed the case.
After the I-Team started asking questions, the then interim New Port Richey Police Chief Kim Bogart told us his agency was going to thoroughly review the case and the actions of the officer. Chief Bogart credits the I-Team with bringing to his attention that the dash mounted video even existed. He then contacted the state attorney's office to investigate three weeks after the incident.
The state attorney subpoenaed the hospital for O'Neill's medical records. It showed his BAC registered at four times the legal limit more than two hours after he was found passed out behind the wheel.
O'Neill will not be arrested, because it's a misdemeanor charge. He is expected to appear at an arraignment hearing Sept. 12, where he can enter a plea.
The I-Team reached out to O'Neill for comment today. He told I-Team reporter Jackie Callaway that he had no comment, except to say that he plans to continue his role as city manager and plans to focus on city business, for now.
Records show O'Neill's home was just a few blocks away and a Port Richey Police officer drove his car home for him.
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